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of the primordial forest and sunk its roots into the soil. today, we know the region by its countries-- mexico, honduras, el salvador, belize, and guatemala. but long ago, it was the world of the maya. not an empire, nor a country, the classic maya culture flourished from the third to the ninth century in a far flung collection of city-states. at palenque, tonina, bonampak and other cities, dynastic kings ruled absolutely, controlling trade and tribute. they presided over intricate hierarchies of nobles and officials at courts resplendent with works of art. maya culture, shrouded in a mystery as dense as the forests in which it took root, revealed itself fitfully over three centuries. when the ruins in the jungle were first discovered, there was no way of understanding how the civilization was organized. so it's really through the inscriptions that we've been able to identify kings, to find out their capitals, their seats of power. and through this, we recognize now that there were many kingdoms. there was no unified maya state. there wasn't even just a few states. there were many, many states
( music ) narrator: the thousand yearsgo in souern mexico, an unprecedent culture flourished in the jungle nearhe gulf coast. rivers meandering through the hot, tropical lowlands were the region's lifeblood. theswaterwayfor transportion and tra encouraged agriculture. annual floods left deposits of fertile soil, ideal for growing maize, squash and beans. more than two thousand years later, the aztecs called this region "olman," or "rubber country," the name of the peoples. who dwelled there in antiquity is lost, but they have become known as olmec. to express their political and religious beliefs, the ancient olmec invented imagery of spellbinding power. they carved monumental sculptures from volcanic rock without metal tools, using hammers and chisels ma ostone. they transported massive blocks of basalt, weighing up to 2tons, across miles of teory thout benefit of the wel. they built the first pyramid in the americas, rising 100 feet an of rehan the half millionubic ft d-pa e they fased delicate, and often deeply expressive, works of art in ceramic, serpentine and jade. the
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